Ottawa Senators assistant GM Tim Murray is the new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, as the team introduces him on Thursday.
He’s an interesting hire, in that he doesn’t fit the assumed criteria for a leading candidate. He has no ties to Buffalo. The 50 year old also doesn’t have a Stanley Cup ring – although the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim made the Final in 2003 when he was part of their front office, and he helped assemble the talent for their 2007 Cup winner. (That ironically defeated the Senators, with whom Murray was employed.)
What he does have, however, is extensive front office experience that has prepped him for this gig. He may never have been a general manager in title in the NHL, but he knows the job thoroughly; and he’s considered one of the most informed and insightful talent evaluators in the game.
Tim Murray, as we said earlier, could be a brilliant hire for the Sabres and president Pat LaFontaine.
But the real question for Sabres fans is how Tim Murray won’t be Darcy Regier.
John Vogl of the Buffalo News sought to address that in writing about Murray’s hiring:
Praise for Murray’s evaluating skills has been universal. The Sabres are rebuilding through the draft, so getting picks right is crucial. Players drafted under Murray’s watch include All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson and Ottawa regulars Mika Zibanejad, Zack Smith and Robin Lehner.
More importantly for Sabres fans, Murray and the Senators haven’t been wed to their youngsters. Ottawa sent Stefan Noesen, a first-round pick in 2011, and Jakob Silfverberg, a second-round selection in 2009, to Anaheim as part of a deal for high-scoring forward Bobby Ryan.
Darcy Regier’s hesitance to move the players he drafted helped contribute to his downfall and November firing as Buffalo’s general manager.
That second graph is the essential one.
It’s clear that Terry Pegula and Ted Black, from the end of last season onward, don’t have an appetite for a prolonged rebuild. The plan, as voiced by Regier before his firing, is to follow the map of the Los Angeles Kings: Draft brilliantly, and then keep some of the pieces while aggressively using others to upgrade the roster. That’s how the Kings ended up with Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and a Stanley Cup. The Sabres want to follow the same path.
Murray isn’t going to be a huckster or a spotlight guy. He’s a worker and a bit of a wonk. LaFontaine has the charisma in the front office, and that’s fine: This team doesn’t need Brian Burke; it needs Ray Shero.
What does Murray need? Apparently a different situation than the one Ottawa provided. One of the reasons Murray was never mentioned as a candidate for GM openings in the NHL was because it was assumed he would succeed his uncle Bryan as Ottawa GM.
The fact that he goes from the money bleeding Eugene Melnyk to the billions of Terry Pegula may be more than coincidence.